The Blessing of Peace by Rabbi Yosef Adler


            Right in the middle of Parshat Naso is the full text of   Birchat Kohanim and the instructions to Aharon and his children to bless Am Yisrael.  A most puzzling statement concerning Birchat Kohanim is found on דף קיח of Masechet Shabbat:  אמר רבי יוסי מעולם לא עברתי על דברי חברי יודע אני שאין אני כהן ואילו אמרו לי עלה לדוכן הייתי עולה.  "Rabbi Yosi said 'I never challenged or refused to honor a request of any of my friends.  Despite the fact that I am not a kohen, if my friend were to tell me to ascend the platform and bless the people, I would do so.'" 

            The question that beckons is the obvious one.  Rabbi Yosi certainly was aware of the fact ברכת כוהנים is reserved exclusively for כהנים.  אמור להם - לכהנים.  Any זר, non כהן that uses this text as a ברכה violates a מצוות עשה.  What, then, did Rabbi Yosi have in mind?

            The last phrase of ברכת כהנים, as well as that of שמונה עשרה focuses on שלום.  The very last משנה in ש"ס concludes with,לא מצא הקב"ה כלי מחניק ברכה לישראל  אלא השלום , the only vessel through which G-d could convey any ברכה is peace.  The Midrash Rabba states חביב הוא השלום שכל מעשים וזכויות שעשה אברהם אבינו לא נתן שכרו אלא שלום שנאמר ואתה תבוא אל אבותך בשלום.  Yaakov prayed for ושבתי בשלום אל בית אבי.  At a Brit Milah we remark concerning אהרן that בריתי היתה איתו החיים והשלום.  Unfortunately, the מדה of שלום is not as prevalent as if should be.  Commenting on the phrase תלמידי חכמים מרבים שלום בעולם שנאמר וכל בניך לימודי ה' ורב שלום בנייך, that תלמידי חכמים increase peace and harmony in this world, and the fact that a pasuk is offered to prove it, Dr. Norman Lamm of Yeshiva University once quipped that it is a good thing a pasuk is offered to support the premise.  Otherwise, no one would believe it.

            The משך חכמה believes that this commitment to שלום and avoiding מחלוקת guided Rabbi Yosi.  The Gemara comments that those who stand behind the כהנים in shul or do not face the כהנים are not included in the ברכה.  But the Gemarah in Sotah states that עם שבשדות, those individuals who were working and could not come to shul (referring to regular weekday services in which ברכת כהנים are recited daily in Eretz Yisrael) would be included in the Beracha דאניסי הן, for it was circumstances beyond their control that precluded them from joining the מנין.  ר' יוסי felt so strongly about שלום that he was considered an אנוס, forced, when asked by his friend to ascend the דוכן.  He simply would not help himself and thus was compelled to דוכן simply to avoid the מחלוקת.  Whether this analysis is halachicaly valid or not, is not my point; what is significant is the attitude that we ought to strive to emulate: דרכיה דרכי נועם וכל נתיבותה שלום.

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